By GUY AOKI
Back when I began collecting comic books in July of 1972, I was into the “serious” superhero titles put out by DC and Marvel. Some of my cousins read the more juvenile comics, which I scoffed at: “Casper the Friendly Ghost,” “Richie Rich,” or “Archie.” Those latter titles supplied the “comic” in the term “comic book” and eventually led to the movement to call serious titles “sequential art” or “graphic novels” to get away from the connotation that there was anything funny about them.
I mean, at the time, I was searching out the (already classic) Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” series where our heroes took a road trip across the country trying to understand this complicated nation of ours. In the back-up feature of Batman #244, when Robin caught a juvenile delinquent who stole money from a fundraiser meant for student scholarships, instead of turning the boy in to the authorities, Robin tried to mentor him and set him on a straighter path.
But last week, I walked into a comic book store and, on the cover of an Archie comic book, was George Takei in cartoon form saying “Oh My!” OK, it caught my attention, and I looked through it. I resisted at first, but this week, I bought my first Archie comic book. And guess what? Like those superhero comics books from 1972, this one is also socially relevant.
Takei’s guest appearance takes place in Kevin Keller #6. The blonde, tall, athletic-looking Keller was introduced two years ago in Archie’s girlfriend Veronica’s magazine. The issue was so popular that the publisher actually ran a second printing of it, the first time in its history. In June of last year, the teenage Keller got his own four-issue mini-series. This past January, Keller made headlines when, as an adult, he got married… to another man. Yep, he’s gay. Now, Keller has his own ongoing bimonthly series focusing on his teenage years.
As with most comic book art these days, this issue doesn’t look as great as what you’d find back in the ’70s, when comic book art in general hit its peak. But it still has enough of that “Archie look” to have some sentimental value. It does read like it’s meant for 10-year-olds, and the explanation of Takei’s life is very simple, but in the end, conversational.
Miss Grundy wants the students to give oral reports on “people who inspire us.” Betty picks Emelia Earhart; Archie, Muhammad Ali; Reggie, David Hasselhoff; Jughead, Colonel Sanders; and Veronica? Er, Kim Kardashian. Kevin chooses George Takei “not only because of his role as an actor, but the triumph of his personal story.”
Keller talks about the discrimination the future actor faced as one of the Japanese Americans who were put in internment camps during World War II. “In the last decade,” Keller tells his classmates, “George came out as gay, serving as an inspirational figure for the equality movement! He and his husband Brad promote diversity and equality around the world! And most of all, George Takei is just a really cool guy!”
Grundy likes the report and no one snickers or makes a snide remark. Jughead tells Keller that Takei’s supposed to attend a comic book convention, so some of the Archie gang tries to get there to meet the actor. In the meantime, Betty posts Kevin’s report on the school’s online newspaper, which Brad and George read. They decide to come to Riverdale High to meet Kevin. Principal Mr. Weatherbee thinks it’s a great idea and even sets up a special assembly.
Well, you should buy the comic book to find out what happens next. But it was surprising to see how open Keller is about his sexual orientation and how he’s accepted as just another classmate. While at the convention, he runs into Brian, whom he went out with before, and they agree to go out again. Later, on the way to their date, Kevin tells him that Takei “helped pave the way for future generations! He shows how important it is to be true to yourself! And to be proud of who you are!… When he was our age, he couldn’t go out on a date like we are!” “Wow!” Brian replies.
“We’re living in better times!” Kevin continues. “We can be who we are! And even though there’s always more work to be done… Let’s be thankful for the groundbreakers who pave the way! Like George Takei!”
In an interview, Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics co-CEO, said creating Kevin Keller was just in keeping with the world of today. “Archie’s hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books.” Keller writer Dan Parent added, “It shows that Riverdale is in the 21st century.”
Romance for the Guys Too Department: As I’ve often mentioned in this column, historically, in television and movies, romances involving Asians tended to be between Asian women and white men, while Asian men got no one and were dismissed as jokes. So it’s still significant when Asian men are seen as attractive to women. In last week’s “Hawaii Five-0,” Max Bergman (Masi Oka) waits in line at the bank, allowing others to go in front of him because he’s waiting to see a certain teller (Rumer Willis, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter). She points out that he could easily use the ATM, but it’s obvious he’s there because he wants to see her. Max awkwardly admits it’s true in his nerdy way. Yet, surprisingly, she slips him her number. They agree to go out.
Then a bank robber comes in and ruins the moment. Another patron goes for the gun, it goes off, and not only is he shot, but that single bullet also hits Max’s favorite teller in the stomach.
Kinda far-fetched but… The show has a penchant for setting up matches with its cast members only to quickly kill off the love interest for shock value. In the first season, the governor tells her assistant, played by Kelly Hu. that Chin Ho likes her, then she gets blown up in her car; last season, Chin Ho got married to his ex-girlfriend, and in this season’s opener, she was murdered. Luckily, this time, the woman survived and she and Max had a private date in the hospital commissary, where he got food out of the dispenser.
By the way, in next week’s episode, George Takei guest-stars as Chin Ho’s uncle.
On “The Mentalist,” Kimball Cho (Tim Kang) tries to break up a counterfeiting ring and is chasing one of the hoods when his former love, Summer (Samaire Armstrong), appears out of the shadows and pregnant! Last season, when the former stripper/prostitute began using drugs again, Cho sent her off to Seattle to get clean, and they had a tearful goodbye.
Summer swears she only went on a ride with the guy who ran away and had no idea about the counterfeiting ring. She’s eight months pregnant and is town to marry the baby’s father. She begs Cho to help her because the wedding is in a couple days, and she doesn’t want her future husband to know about her past. After capturing the runaway, Cho arranges a deal where the guy identifies those in the ring in exchange for immunity for both him and Summer.
It’s funny that in almost every scene when Cho mentions Summer was an informer who worked for him, someone always knowingly asks, “Is that all she was?”
A Latina cop had asked Cho to work with her in a gang unit when he’s not busy doing his usual work with CBI (California Bureau of Investigation), and she chews him out for going behind her back to get Summer free of charges. After Cho crosses the street, he sees a white limousine with a “Just Married” sign and noisy cans attached. Summer, on her way to the church, jumps out, thanks him, promises she’ll be good, and says, “I’d kiss you but Roger gets crazy jealous!” Cho smiles and wishes her well, but as always, it’s a bittersweet goodbye.
Somehow, I think we’ll see more of Summer. I certainly hope so, anyway. She and Cho are so cute together.
Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), writes from Glendale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.